In a truly bizarre report, which totally undermines the credibility of the agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims that fracking, where a toxic chemical slurry is poured deep into the ground, doesn't contaminate drinking water.
Yet the study, requested by Congress and taking over five years to prepare, found instances where water sources were affected by hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
The EPA, somewhat comically, also found risks to drinking water in formations where fracking had been conducted and where water supplies were scarce.
Yet overall, according to the EPA, there was little impact to water supplies from the thousands of wells around the country.
Which all doesn't really add up.
The EPA said the study will give state regulators, local communities and companies "a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources,” said EPA science adviser Thomas Burke.
That's likely where the problem lies, as based on the absurd findings, the study's overall conclusion will pave the way for even more fracking, removing a common objection that it does, as the EPA found in many cases, pollute water supplies.
Environmental groups immediately cast doubt on the EPA's contradictory findings.
"There are still significant gaps in the scientific understanding of fracking," said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This study is site-specific and limited, as the EPA has explained, which makes it impossible to fully understand all the risks at this time."
Mall pointed out that unlike past studies, the EPA this time acknowledged there are some effects on water.
Mark Brownstein, vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said that
"Ongoing physical integrity of the wells and handling the millions of gallons of wastewater coming back to the surface after fracking, over the lifetime of each well, are even bigger challenges,” he said. "Relentless focus on these issues by regulators and industry is critical."
The EPA's Burke admitted to reporters that oil and gas companies were ther major source of information on locations and practices, and that the agency had a "very cooperative relationship with industry."
Perhaps a little too cooperatve, given that pumping toxic chemicals into groundwater supplies causes them to be filled with toxic chemicals. Fracking has also been shown to cause earthquakes.
Energy groups, predictably, embraced the EPA's findings.
The draft study will undergo external review by the public and the agency's Science Advisory Board, which is due to conclude next year.
Here's hoping they can wring out all that oil money staining the pages and publish actual results and not a free pass to the oil companies.